PERKINSTON, Miss. (WLOX) - Fresh off of the program’s fifth national championship run that ended with a perfect 12-0 record, the Mississippi Gulf Coast Bulldogs are back to work.
“It feels good but I’m really excited for the players," head coach Jack Wright said. "These players have a certain window that they can play in and unfortunately, 2020 has landed in their window. We have to help them battle through that as coaches.”
Unfortunately, MGCCC won’t be able to defend its national title. The NJCAA postponed football until the spring of 2021, but the MACCC pushed back, electing to play a six-game divisional season that includes a playoff.
“Our kids typically move on in December. So the option to play in the spring is not a real option," Wright said. "Every game has an added urgency now, every game becomes more important. The kids have to buy into the fact that their career numbers or year-long numbers are not going to be the same. They have to compete and try to win the game.”
The Bulldogs lose key pieces of their championship roster, but they’re not short on championship talent. Freshman quarterbacks Philip Short and DeCarlos Nicolson will both try to fill the huge void left behind by Chance Lovertich, who threw for nearly 2800 yards and 24 touchdowns in 2019.
“Having to step into Chance’s shoes, that’s a big role. He was amazing for them," Short said. "It’s a big role to fill, but we’ve been putting in work. Since we reported, the whole team has been grinding. Just looking forward to putting it together Thursday.”
Defensively, the linebacker group will be leaned on heavily behind Mississippi State commit Navonteque Strong and South Alabama commit Malik Jones. The secondary, however, will be challenged.
“Everybody that they recruited knows what they’re doing. That’s what we expect," cornerback Scooby Carter said. "We get here, listen once, and do it. If there is a mistake, we correct it and we go from there. That’s just what’s expected we’re ready to play.”
Heading into year three and undoubtedly the toughest season of his coaching career, Jack Wright is ready to see what the Bulldogs are made of.
“There’s a lot of things that we’re going over now that should have been covered in the spring. It will be a different year,” Wright said. "I’m not complaining because every coach in the country is having the same struggle. We just have to try to do it a little bit better than everybody else.”
Coach Wright told WLOX that there is always an emphasis to win, but with COVID-19, player safety will be of the utmost importance.
The Bulldogs return 25 players from their 2019 NJCAA championship roster, with six starters on offense and four on defense. The 2020 roster includes 11 division one commits with more to come as the season progresses.
Gulf Coast begin their truncated season October 1st at archrival Pearl River at 7 p.m.